Tag Archives: organizational culture

5 Things Project Managers Can Learn From Netflix

Netflix, the US movie subscription service posted this deck on Slideshare, which describes its creative approach to culture, people, process and incentives.

1. Inspire with context setting, rather than managing details

“If you want to build a ship, don’t drum up the people to gather the wood, divide the work and give orders. Instead, teach them to yearn for the endless sea.”

Antoine De St-Exupery

2. Culture is not rules, but behaviors

Enron had an impressive list of values, but evidently didn’t practice them. Culture is not about what behavior gets talked about, but gets rewarded.

3. The best can be 2-10x as productive as the rest

In processes, the best people can be 2x as productive, in creative roles, the best can be 10x as good as the average person. Work hard to recruit and keep the best people on your projects, because they are disproportionately effective contributors.

4. Hard work doesn’t matter

It’s about results, working long hours isn’t relevant as long as results are achieved.

5. Too much process is counter-productive, encourage freedom.

Process will tend to frustrate high performers and drive them out. Maintaining process will often take more time/effort in creative industries than the cost of fixing a mistake. The goal therefore is rapid recovery, not perfect process. For example, spending under a fixed budget each quarter (high degree of freedom) is a better process than fixed approval for every $5k of expenditure (high degree of process).

Netflix also has no vacation policy, employees chose how to manage their vacation in a way that sense for them as long as they get their goals accomplished.

It’s an interesting model, they admit it’s not suited for nuclear power plants or open heart surgery where a checklist might be a better approach, but for a creative project, Netflix offers some interesting ideas to consider.

The Virtues of Task Non-Completion

Conventional wisdom says, plan your work and work your plan. Failing to complete a task is the antithesis of this.

However, in many organizations, employees are purposefully overloaded. By design, the organization puts more demands on employees than they can reasonably accomplish. Work comes in from customers, co-workers, managers and internal processes. The successful employees are not the ones who get it all done. That’s not possible. Finishing work will simply create more work. The successful employees are the ones who pick the right work to do. An implication of this is that work will ‘fall off’ your task list. But if all goes well, it’s the lower priority work that’s falling off, and the most impactful work is getting done.

The theoretical approach is to determine exactly what you can accomplish and reject other requests, but that approach, can take more time to set up and maintain than most people have, because you’re continually rebalancing for each request that comes in. In organizations with this overload culture and without formal planning, this model reflects the lowest cost process for how work is ‘managed’.